5 things to watch at Yankees' 2021 MLB spring training

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Scott Thompson
·5 min read
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Domingo German/Gary Sanchez/Clint Frazier/Miguel Andujar/Corey Kluber
Domingo German/Gary Sanchez/Clint Frazier/Miguel Andujar/Corey Kluber

The Yankees are back in Tampa for spring training as they enter yet another year of being a World Series favorite thanks to their powerful lineup and solid pitching staff backing them up.

But like every team, question marks remain heading into spring training -- ones the team hopes will be figured out come Opening Day.

With that in mind, let’s break down the five biggest things to watch throughout spring training as GM Brian Cashman, manager Aaron Boone and the rest of the team watch the competition that will lead to the best 26 men wearing pinstripes on April 1:

The Battle for the Fifth Rotation Spot

It’s one of the only battles in camp, but it will be a big one with many pitchers vying for the last spot in the rotation. Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon (we’ll get to them later on) are the new faces who presumably solidify the rotation behind Gerrit Cole. Jordan Montgomery is also the only lefty of the bunch and one would figure he pitches in the third or fourth slot when Boone configures the rotation on paper.

That leaves the likes of Domingo German, Deivi Garcia, Clarke Schmidt, Michael King and others to battle it out. German should get the upper hand since he proved in 2019 that he is more than capable of rounding out the rotation. However, he hasn’t pitched in a game since that season due to a domestic violence suspension by MLB.

Garcia can give him a run for his money, though. His confidence on the mound was apparent in his first starts in the bigs, and he may be looking to build off it as well. Also, last spring training, Garcia was featured a good amount, so it won’t be his first run in the park getting starts and feeling out those battles.

This will be a big storyline throughout the next month or so, as each outing from these pitchers will tell who has the edge over the others at the end of the day.

Has Gary Sanchez found his swing again?

From the group of starting position players, Sanchez will be the most intriguing to keep an eye on. There’s no way to sugarcoat how bad he was in 2020, and even Sanchez won’t defend it. He knows he’s capable of better seasons and he’s shown so in the past.

He played in the Dominican Winter League to continue facing live pitching and work on his swing. Sanchez performed decently down there, and while it was continued reps against solid competition, the Yankees were also hoping that his confidence at the dish would build up again, too.

Kyle Higashioka won’t make it easy on Sanchez in Tampa, but Cashman already noted that it’s basically Sanchez’s job to lose once again. If he isn’t striking out left and right with no results in the exhibition games, he should be starting behind the plate on most nights.

How do Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon look?

The Yankees are banking on Kluber and Taillon to return to their normal selves following some injury issues for both of them.

Kluber is coming off shoulder surgery and needed to impress at a showcase earlier this offseason to show teams he can still get things done on the bump – he clearly did with multiple teams, not just the Yankees, putting in offers.

Taillon just had his second Tommy John surgery and broke down his mechanics to make sure he’s using more of his legs to alleviate the pressure on his arm.

Kluber and Taillon are the expected No. 2 and 3 behind Cole, so there will be a keen eye on their development and readiness throughout the spring.

What will Miguel Andujar’s role be in 2021?

He was the odd man out when it came to designating someone for assignment to make room for players. His role on the team doesn’t seem to be defined after Gio Urshela took over at third base. And his agent even came out publicly to complain about his playing time and how the Yanks are using him.

Andujar has had it rough over the past two seasons, but spring training always means a fresh start. He worked in the outfield during spring training to see how he would function there, and it wasn’t bad in the Yankees’ eyes. Andujar now has a whole offseason to work more on that, and more importantly, get his bat right because that’s what will win him a roster spot at the end of the day.

The Yankees still haven’t parted ways with him, which means they see something in the 25-year-old. We’ll see if he becomes a bench piece at least this season.

Has Clint Frazier solidified left field following his breakout season?

With Brett Gardner no longer aboard (at least for the moment), Frazier appears to have taken over in left field after a solid 2020 campaign. He filled in nicely for the injured Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks when the Yanks had to get creative with their outfield.

The former first-rounder looked more comfortable in the outfield than the previous season when his defense was a question mark. And at the bottom of the lineup, the pop of his bat is undeniable and fun to watch with his extremely quick bat speed.

Frazier will have some competition, though, including Mike Tauchman and newcomer Greg Allen. But it’s his job to lose with Giancarlo Stanton mainly serving as the team’s DH.